​Unit 2 - Area of Study 2.5: How do heavy things fly?​​

Outcome 2.5​

Apply concepts of flight to investigate and explain the motion of objects through fluids.

Examples of learning activities

• investigate practically the flight of water powered rockets and evaluate the factors that influence the performance of the rocket
• make a simple aerofoil using an A4 sheet of paper, sticky tape, a straw and string, for example on the Powerhouse museum website, and investigate its behaviour in an air current
• place a light ball (balloon, table tennis ball) in the stream of air from a vacuum cleaner hose to demonstrate the Bernoulli effect
• use sheets of paper to demonstrate the Bernoulli principle, for example this activity ; relate the Bernoulli principle to atmospheric pressure; demonstrate the Bernoulli effect using, for example this activity​
• suspend a model aircraft from a spring balance in the airstream from a fan; identify and investigate the forces involved
• place a model aeroplane or aerofoil in the air flow from a fan; measure the force required to maintain it in a fixed position; graph the force vs windspeed and write a short paragraph to summarise findings
• create a paper plane and use the addition of mass via paperclips to model the balancing of torques on an aircraft and the effect on its flight path
• discuss the various forces operating on an aircraft in flight and the effect of each of them
• design and make a device, using one sheet of A4 paper and a small amount of glue, that will take the longest possible time to fall to the ground from a height of 2 metres; collate class results and identify the three most important factors that affect flight ‘hang’ time
• explain the principle for a propeller that is made from heavy cardboard and attached to an apple so that when the apple is dropped from a height it will calmly descend to be easily caught; investigate the dependence of the drag force on the descent rate and on the sizes of the propeller’s blades; investigate how the flight pattern of a more irregularly shaped object such as a banana can be controlled
• construct a round-the-pole model aircraft​ running from simple balsa wood or cardboard components and an electric motor; use it to investigate the effect of different wing and tail configurations on achieving balanced flight
• use photographs to analyse and compare the strategies used to reduce the drag area of various vehicles in order to improve fuel efficiency
• use a fan and a model wind turbine to investigate the relationship between airspeed and electricity generated
• research the wing-in-ground effect on lift generation and efficiency of aircraft
• apply the principles of the flight of conventional aircraft to explain the methods used to control simple drone designs, such as a quadcopter
• use photographs to analyse the configuration of wings and other aerodynamics on racing vehicles, for example Formula-1 cars; compare and contrast the configurations used for different circuits and race types
• discuss the effect of the various aerofoil surfaces of an aeroplane and their purposes
• investigate the dispersal of winged seeds; account for seed motion in terms of its physical structure
• operate an electrically-driven propeller on a varying voltage and measure the thrust–power relationship
• use a flight simulator program to investigate the effects of changing the various controls of an aircraft and explain the effects with respect to the physics concepts involved, for example find the relationship between angle of attack, as determined from the cockpit instruments, and speed over a range of fixed power settings; investigate the effect of the flap settings on the rate of climb at various power settings; investigate the relationship between power and speed in straight and level flight
• research the development of alternative fuels for use in commercial passenger aircraft including solar-electric and biofuels
• set up demonstrations or structure independent investigations related to flight by accessing teacher worksheets, applets, media clips and websites at the VicPhysics website
• ​conduct a panel discussion about a question involving a physics-based issue in society, for example, Is flying safe? or Can drones (UAVs) be safely used in the community to provide services such as parcel delivery? or Does commercial passenger aircraft travel have a greater impact on the environment than alternatives such as car or train travel? or Should supersonic jets be banned?

​​Detailed example

Panel discussion: a physics-based issue in society

Refer to the generic detailed example that follows the Unit 2 learning activities and that is applicable across all options in Unit 2 Area of Study 2.5.